Over the last few weeks, I have been writing this magazine article for Matthew’s Hope Magazine. It is my first piece of journalism. Enjoy!
Volunteer art teacher and mentor Debra Vineyard walked around, cleaning up after her art class.
“Can you help me for a little bit?” she asked.
Braedon nodded, because no matter how old you are, helping always feels good.
“Have you ever worked in a garden?” Debra asked.
“My dad had one, but the garden foods died,” Braedon answered.
After a bit more conversation, the two walked down the stairs of the preschool to a little garden right outside the door. Outside were two garden planters with a sign on them that read, “Giggles Garden.”
Standing over the cedar planters, Debra mentored Braedon by chatting with him, and showing him how to plant seeds and flowers. Braedon didn’t like getting his hands dirty though, so Debra did most of the “messy work.”
Her 5-10 minutes alone with a preschooler almost every week can help his or her bad day become brighter. If Debra notices a child is less giddy than usual, she brings them out to the garden and asks simple questions like “How are you?”
“Most of our kids have working parents, while other private schools don’t,” said Ginger Allen, director of the preschool. “[The parents] work so hard. They bring them to our school because they want them to have a quality education with loving teachers where they can learn about Jesus.”
If the Giggles Garden isn’t working, Debra will mentor a preschooler somewhere else. For example, when one child was having a hard time at school, Debra brought him over to the playground and taught him how to pump his little legs on the swing set.
“I think that it helped him because I saw the look on his face. He had discovered something about himself. He could swing,” Debra said.
The plants in the garden planters need care and nurture to help them grow, just like the preschoolers need love and attention. Typically, the kids remind Ginger or their other teacher, Mrs. Reed, to water the plants.
Community effort in the preschool — 23 people from the general public in total — have contributed to the garden. Boy Scout Ryan Behrle of Winter Garden chose Matthew’s Hope for his Eagle Scout Project and requested a list of things he could help with. When Ginger Allen gave him that list, she put “garden” at the top.
Ryan began work on two garden planters, each built at a comfortable height for a preschooler. He also installed a paver patio that measured 70 square feet.
Ace Hardware has joined the community effort, too. When Debra requested plant donations, the store donated seeds and apologized for not having any flowers. Shortly after, they gave away some of their flowers, too.
“Everybody’s doing what God wants them to do there. It’s perfect,” Debra said.